Checking in with the Seleção: part II

When we last spoke about the Seleção the London Olympics were just around the corner, and coming off the back of a promising run of friendlies, Mano Menezes’s boys looked dead certs to grab gold.

Prata com gosto de lata

However, as we know football is rarely so cut-and-dried. In the tournament’s early stages, Brazil lived up to expectations to some degree, winning all five of their matches on the way to the final, scoring three goals in each. Although, their second-half struggle against Egypt and difficulty in putting away Honduras hinted towards a deeper defensive problem.

In the final at Wembley, Brazil faced a quick and expansive Mexico side who managed to take the lead in the first minute of the match. The seleção failed to recover properly and lost the match 2-1 – forcing them to make do with the silver medal.

Of course, an Olympic medal of any substance should not be sniffed at. But for Brazil, this really was uma prata com gosto de lata – a silver that tastes like tin. Continue reading Checking in with the Seleção: part II

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Tactical shift propels Palmeiras to Copa do Brasil glory

Palmeiras are one of Brazil’s most prestigious football clubs, but since the start of the 21st century, they have been sorely starved of success. The end of the last millennium was a different story though, and with the backing of Italian food corporation Parmalat, Palmeiras amassed a wide range of trophies in the 1990’s: two Campeonato Brasileiro wins (1993 & 94), three Campeonato Paulistas (1993, 94 & 96), the Torneio Rio-São Paulo (1993), the Copa do Brasil and Copa Mercosul (both in 1998), and of course, the Copa Libertadores of 1999.

However, at the turn of the century the Parmalat partnership came to an end. The Italians upped sticks and so, it seemed, did Palmeiras’ winning attitude. The Verdão fell on hard times, even suffering relegation in 2001. Years of mediocrity followed, and their only notable honour in the 2000’s was the Campeonato Paulista of 2008.

Now, nearly 20 years on from their momentous Paulistão triumph over rivals Corinthians in 1993, Palmeiras are showing tentative signs of recuperation. Luiz Felipe Scolari (or Felipão as he is known in Brazil), the coach who led Palmeiras to those famous Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores triumphs, is back in charge, and despite constant behind-the-scenes power struggles, they are managing to build a competitive squad once again. Wednesday evening’s Copa do Brasil victory was as a testament to that. Continue reading Tactical shift propels Palmeiras to Copa do Brasil glory

How will the Copa Libertadores semi finalists line up?

Only four months after the first round, the 2012 Copa Libertadores has already reached the semi final stage. We’ve had a wonderful tournament so far, full of drama, tension and some superb football, but oddly enough there have been very few surprises. In a setting that usually throws up a fair amount of shock results, we have seen the better sides prosper, and this year’s semi final quartet are arguably the continent’s four best teams.

From Brazil, we have last year’s winners Santos and the current Brazilian champions Corinthians, and they are joined by Boca Juniors and Universidad de Chile, the champions of Argentina and Chile respectively. Thanks to CONMEBOL’s ruling that pairs together clubs from the same nation in the semi final draw, the two Brazilian sides will face each other in the first semi, while Boca and Universidad de Chile will battle it out for the other place in the final.

The semi final draw has came out perfectly, as in each tie we will be treated to a mouthwatering clash between one flamboyant and expressive attacking side, and one solid and organised defensive unit. Continue reading How will the Copa Libertadores semi finalists line up?

Boca Juniors 2×1 Unión Española: Late Silva header saves Boca’s blushes

In my opinion, what makes the Copa Libertadores such an intriguing tournament is the constant clash of styles from around this fascinating continent. In Europe, the playing style is, on the whole, rather homogenised. For example in this season’s Champions League group stages, Group F comprised of Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Olympiakos and Olympique Marseille, four teams that play very similar styles in the popular 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the Libertadores though, tactical variation is alive and well. In fact, it is very rare for a Copa Libertadores match to include two teams from different countries playing the same formation. Continue reading Boca Juniors 2×1 Unión Española: Late Silva header saves Boca’s blushes

Atlético Nacional 3×0 Peñarol: Verdolagas continue to impress

After a brief pause in operations, Game of the Week returns to run the rule over Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores Group 8 clash between Atlético Nacional and Peñarol in Medellín. After an impressive start to their group campaign, the home side just needed to avoid defeat in order to seal qualification to the knock-out stages, while the underachieving Peñarol were already eliminated going into this match, looking to exorcise the demons of the 0x4 home defeat in the reverse fixture.

This turned out to be yet another admirable performance from Santiago Escobar’s Verdolagas as they secured a comprehensive three-goal victory in front of their home fans, securing their qualification and putting them atop Group 8 with eleven points in five matches. Continue reading Atlético Nacional 3×0 Peñarol: Verdolagas continue to impress